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Brotherton v. Cleveland

923 F.2d 477 (1991)

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Brotherton v. Cleveland

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

923 F.2d 477 (1991)

Facts

Steven Brotherton was declared dead at a hospital (defendant). The hospital asked Steven’s wife, Deborah Brotherton (plaintiff), if she was willing to donate Steven’s organs or other body parts. Based on Steven’s personal values, Deborah declined to donate any of his body parts. Because there were concerns that Steven may have committed suicide, Steven’s body was then transferred to the Hamilton County coroner’s office (defendant) for an autopsy. After the autopsy, the coroner’s office called an eye bank (defendant) to come remove Steven’s corneas, and an eye-bank technician removed them. Under the relevant state statute, if the coroner was not actually aware of any objection, the coroner was allowed to remove a dead person’s corneas. The hospital had not told the coroner’s office about Deborah’s objection to donating Steven’s body parts. In accordance with its established procedures, the coroner’s office deliberately did not ask the hospital or Deborah if there was an objection, and it hid information to prevent the eye bank from asking about an objection. When Deborah read the autopsy report, she learned that Steven’s corneas had been removed, and she brought a § 1983 due-process claim (among other claims) against the county. This claim was based on an argument that the county coroner had deprived Deborah of her legal right in Steven’s body without due process of law. The trial court dismissed the due-process claim, and Deborah appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Martin, J.)

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